The Purposes and Desires of the Heart.

Genesis 6:5-7.

The Spirit of God has been pleased to state two grounds upon which God brought the judgment of the flood upon man. First, because of what he had done - "The wickedness of man was great in the earth;" and further on we read that this had assumed the twofold form of corruption and violence, those parent sins of Genesis 3 and 4, which will find their full consummation in the day of the Lord, the former in Jerusalem and the antichrist, and the latter in Babylon and the beast. Second, because of what he was - "Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually;" or, as the margin reads, "The purposes and desires of his heart" were such.

On account of these two things, then, "it repented the Lord that He made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart." How little are we impressed with the degree to which the heart of God is affected by the sin of His creatures! Now, after the flood, when man was about to get a new start on the earth, after having been sheltered for a hundred and fifty days from judgment, from Satan, and from the world, what does God say? (Gen. 8:21.) Has His estimate of man risen? Has His judgment become modified? Not in the least. He utters not a word about man's conduct, for as yet no space had been given for it to be manifested under His new conditions. But as to the deeper question we read, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth." He who "searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts" (1 Chron. 28:9), needs no waiting for their doings; for He knoweth what is in man, and that He cannot commit Himself to him.

But there is here a point of deepest interest; viz., that because of what He saw in man, or, if you please, in spite of it (see margin), He declares that He will not again smite the earth any more for man's sake. And why this comforting word, this assuring promise, as undeserved as it was unsought? The answer is surely obvious to every student of the word; it was simply and solely because of the incoming between Himself and man of all that was signified in the altar and the holocaust of Noah. The first erection on the typically new earth was an altar unto God, probably the earliest ever constructed, and upon this a mighty sacrifice, whole-burnt offering, ascended to Him, definitely referring God's heart to the excellency and the efficacy of Christ's person and work. He is met, as it were, on the threshold of the renewed earth by Him who is the beginning of the creation of God!

Thus, as man's entrance upon the antediluvian world (driven forth from the garden) was as carrying the curse by which he had inaugurated his relations to it when his former relations to God were suspended, so now his entrance upon the typically new creation was marked by restored relations to God, inaugurated by promise and by covenant; so benignant, too, in their character that from that moment to the present his material condition has been substantially and continuously ameliorated. And again we ask, Why was this? Is it not evident that He who saw the end from the beginning so knew, on the one hand, that judgment would work no change in the human heart, and so found, on the other, full and deep satisfaction in what Noah's altar and sacrifice expressed as denoted by the words, "The Lord smelled a sweet savour, or savour of rest" (margin), that He proclaimed, as it were, an amnesty to man, and retired with profound delight to rest in the Son of His love?

Look we on now to Christianity, and again these thoughts and imaginations of man's heart come before us (2 Cor. 10:4-5); for, be it as left alone in lawlessness, or under and after divine judgment, or when brought upon Christian ground, man as man is unchanged, no matter what be his dispensation or the character of his calling. But see how the Spirit of God deals in holy peremptoriness with these hidden activities of man's heart in the case of believers. Does grace give license to the flesh and its works? By no means. On the contrary, not satisfied with rigorously controlling all that is overt, we have here the deepest springs of fleshly activity touched in the core. The "strongholds" are to be scaled and pulled down; the "imaginations" with every high thing in their train are to be cast down, and "every thought" is to be brought down, "into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

Nothing less than this is what Christianity proposes to effect for the believer; for you, dear reader, and for me. Is it so with us? Has the Spirit of God achieved this noiseless and unseen conquest over what He finds in us, for the glory of Christ, as captives in His train? How far-reaching and how deep-searching is that word "every thought" subjugated to Christ!

May His grace lead us into real exercise of soul as to the purposes and desires of our hearts, that His eye may behold those hidden springs, which only He surveys, working with true fidelity to Himself under the ceaseless control of His Spirit unto the joy and delight of His own heart. Says the apostle, "I am jealous over you with godly jealousy; for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." W. Rickards. (Derby).